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TEXT: Hebrews 2:14-15
SUBJECT: A String of Pearls #11
Are you afraid to die? Most people are, including many believers in Christ. You know why the unsaved are scared to die-because, whatever they say to the contrary, they know there is a God and that they are guilty before Him.
But why do believers fear death? Some do because they lack assurance and others because their faith is weak; some are too fond of the world, while others are worried about the ones they leave behind. These add to the fear of death, but they don't create it. Death is feared-most of all-because it is a fearful thing. The fear is not all in your head--most of it is in death itself! Death is the penalty of sin, the curse of God, the sum of all evils, and the Last Enemy. Death is a bad thing.
But for the believer it is not only a bad thing. "All things work together for good to those who love God". Including death. Paul doesn't say death is a good thing-because it isn't! What He says is that God uses death to do us good.
This is the topic of our Puritan study. About three months ago, we began to look at a funeral sermon preached in the spring of 1657 and published a few months later. The preacher is Thomas Brooks, a pastor in London and its title is A String of Pearls or the Best Things Reserved Till Last. The sermon is a long one, of course, and we've been going through it at a snail's pace. Near the end of the sermon, we find twenty reasons for not fearing death. The reasons apply to all Christians, but only to Christians.
If you're not a Christian, you ought fear death-and what lies beyond it. John the Baptist urges you to "Flee from the wrath to come!" The word, "flee" means run as fast as you can. Death and the judgment are coming for unbelievers. When they'll arrive I can't say, but they will come for you-and maybe a lot sooner than you think.
But if you are a disciple of Christ, death has lost its terror. In the resurrection of Christ, death was dealt a fatal blow. It used to be the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, but now it's a washed-up fighter-ready for a knock-out.
Last week, we looked at seven reasons to not fear death, now we'll have a look at some more.
Do you kids know what "inevitable" means? It means it has to happen; it cannot be avoided. Fear can prevent some things from happening (or, at least cut down the risk). The fear of being mugged will keep you out of the wrong neighborhoods at night; the fear of overspending, will keep you from putting everything on the credit card. The fear of sin will keep you from temptation.
But will the fear of death keep you from dying? No it won't. And if it won't, you ought to pour your concerns into something else-into something more profitable. Like being ready for death by putting your faith in Christ and using the time you have for His glory.
In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught us to not worry about making a living-What shall I eat, what shall I drink, what shall I wear? The reason we're not to fret over these things is not because we don't have to make a living-because we do!-or that food and clothing don't matter to Him-because they do!
No the reason we're not to worry about things is because God loves us and knows what we need. This means we don't have to worry about death for, God will provide for us when it comes time to die. Not before! You're not ready to die right now because you're not dying right now. But when you do, God will be there to ferry you across to the other side.
If worry could add a cubit to our stature we would do well to worry. If worry could cancel death, worry up a storm for yourself and me too. But since the fear of death has no effect on death itself, why torture yourself with it? Why stay in the bondage from which Jesus Christ came to free you?
This has a false ring to it-unless you know your Bible. Who passes out cigars when a loved one dies? We send sympathy cards to the bereaved, not cards congratulating them on their good fortune. This is the right thing to do-to weep with those who weep.
But, if you look at it from another angle, you see that one's birth begins the process of dying while his death ends it. Would you rather have bad things in your past or in your future? Would you rather have a leg cramp at 7 o'clock tonight or at 8 o'clock?
Ecclesiastes 7:1 says
"A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth".
The Wise Man doesn't say the day of one's birth is a bad thing-it isn't! God created life and called it "good". What it says is that the day of one's death is better than the day of his birth. Why? Because that's the day a believer goes to heaven and to a level of life we can't even imagine.
Think of the best days you ever had on earth: the day you fell in love, the day you got married, the day your first child was born, the day your son was baptized, the day your pack of guilt rolled off your back into the Empty Tomb. The worst days in heaven are a million times better than all of these put together.
You shouldn't fear death because it's the gateway to life.
Rest is good-and it is not the same thing as laziness! In fact, loafing around is hard work, boring, and full of guilt and embarrassment. Nothing is less restful than that! But rest itself-rest after a good day's work-is one of the best gifts the Lord ever gave us. "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet".
Few things are more satisfying than going to bed when you've finished the job and done it right. For believers, this is what death is: a rest-not an eternal loafing-but a satisfying rest from the labors and hardships and pains of this life.
But what if our labors haven't been so good? What if we've done slipshod work? Well, that is a problem with much of what we do. We ought to confess it and seek the Lord's mercy. But heaven will not be full of regrets for the bad work we've done, but of wonder at what the Lord has done with our sloppy, half-hearted works!
If a boy's lunch can feed five thousand in the Hands of Christ, then who knows what He can do with the little things we offer Him?
This segues into the next point,
I'm no expert on the psychology of farming, but I bet you farmers prefer harvesting their crops to planting them. But of course they do. The springtime is full of hope, but in the fall their hopes are fulfilled. Everything the Lord ever planted in our souls will be ripe when we get to heaven. Every prayer we prayed, every gift we offered, every sermon we heard, every chapter we read, every sacrifice we made, will be more than repaid in heaven.
Life in this world can be most discouraging. You try to help someone and you fail-he won't take your help, maybe, or if he does, the advice you gave him is wrong. The same is true with ourselves: we pray and read the Bible and try hard, but we keep slipping back into our sins and making little progress toward holiness.
City-slickers don't realize: this is the farmer's life! Plow, plant, water, weed, watch-and nothing comes up! Until the harvest when all the work pays off.
We are now in the (mostly) fruitless part of the year: we have to work, work, work, and we'll see very little fruit for it. But then we die and reap a harvest far greater than we ever hoped for! This is a command and a promise:
Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not faint.
What would you tell of this dear young lady? She's a new bride who is cooking for Thanksgiving for the first time. She puts an eighteen pound turkey in the oven and lets it cook a good five minutes. She takes it out-and nobody can eat it. She is so distraught over her failure that she never cooks again a laughs at others who do. What would you tell her? You'd tell her to wait.
And that's what the Lord tells us.
Wait on the Lord and keep His way and He shall exalt you to inherit the land.Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
I've always loved sports, but I never joined a team for the simple reason that I've always been slow, weak, and unskilled. I don't want to go out there and fail-drop the touchdown pass, strike out with the bases loaded, miss the free throws that would win the game, and so on.
But what if I couldn't fail? What if I hit the grandslam? What if I caught the winning pass and made the foul shots at the end of the game? You think I might enjoy that? Every boy fantasizes about these things! But that's are far as most us of ever get-dreaming about them.
But Christians do more than dream! When we die, we're declared the winners! Everyone in heaven cheers our arrival and the Host of Heaven welcomes us in with the bracing words, Well done, good and faithful servant-you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.
I've always feared failure, but I've never feared success. And that's what the believer's dying day is: a day of success. We win. And there's no reason to fear that.
We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
We looked at a similar point last time and so I won't elaborate much on it now. The Bible compares our relationship to Christ to that of a marriage. In this world, we are engaged to the Lord and in the world to come, we are married to Him. And unlike other couples, we enjoy an eternal honeymoon-with no mixture of sin or selfishness or even honest disagreement to darken our happiness.
I've known people who did not enjoy their wedding-and some of them had good reason not to! But there's nothing in the Church's marriage-day but goodness and truth and beauty. In counseling young couples, you always have to say: lower your expectations-things are never quite what you hope they would be. But on this Wedding, we can only say-raise your expectations-things will be far better than you thought they would be. The most ridiculous, over-the-top expectations are way too low for the Bride of Christ!
There you have it: six good reasons for not fearing death. Your fears won't prevent it, but they will do a lot to make it less happy. And it will be happy, for it will be a day of rest and reaping, of triumph and marriage, in short-it's the believer's best day.
And then it gets better with the Resurrection!
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